Artist: Sunny Bobo
Pascal Umunna Ukwunna, a.k.a Sunny Bobo is a circumstantial breed of an unstable social providence. He was born on the day the hitherto serene greeny city of Owerri and indeed Nigeria was on the run. No thanks to the Nigerian civil war which made his mother bear him on “foreign land”. Rather than his native town of Amakohia Uratta in Owerri north LGA, Pascal (Sunny Bobo) was born at Uzoagba where his family had taken refuge owing to the rampaging fireworks of the war. He is the last child of a family of the perfect number seven. He is married to a homely wife Chigozie who herself is a singer. The union is blessed with six children, three apiece.
If this sheik of old school was christened as we have seen above, one is wont to ask the connection between the real name and the stage name hence they do not have anything in common. Pascal is not known as Sunny Bobo today for fun. Two unavoidable factors gave rise to it. Sunday (Sunny) was Paschal’s immediate elder brother who died of cholera during the civil war. Paschal as an adult, had ones been told by his mother of the unprecedented passion his late brother had for him. According to her, Sunday while on death bed insisted on seeing Paschal before he breathed last. Coincidentally, Paschal’s first daughter, Adaeze was born on a Sunday. The beautiful baby girl’s birth on a Sunday reinforced and cast a flashback on the memory of his late brother. As such, rather than name her Sunday or so, Paschal decided to bear the name in her stead. By so doing, Sunday was immortalized. Then the Bobo element which is like a surname was a product of one of his fans who he usually met at Rapour and Shangarilla Hotels both in Owerri. By popular demand then, Sunny Bobo was motivated to play evergreen oldies of Dan Orji of Peacock’s Intl. Band and Albert Udemba, the bottom belle master and other of their contemporaries. Further research revealed that Sunny Bobo ravaged and rendered those hits with such impunity that usually sent both conscious and unconscious legs itching for the dancing floor. It was this same soaring demand that established the attached surname which today goes in paripassu with each other so that wherever there is butter, bread must follow. On the other hand, the Umunna you usually hear Sunny Bobo voice with utmost alacrity in his song is his middle name.
After his primary school education, the then Paschal Ukwunna moved to Nsukka to live with his elder brother, Charles. While there, he attended St. Teresa’s Secondary School popularly called STC, where he did forms one to three. Back home, he was enrolled at Egbu Comprehensive Secondary School and was the then disciplinary prefect. He rounded off his secondary school career at the famous Holy Ghost College, Owerri
Early Desire for Music
Sunny Bobo did not get into music industry by chance. First, the appetite was there; followed by the quest to develop it and bring it to bear. In a sequential graphic analysis, Sunny Bobo narrates to me in an interview held in Owerri how far so far he has journeyed on the rocky musical track routes. First he was conceived, born and bred by a mother singer. He went ahead as a band boy attaché to Soky Ohale-led band that was the rave of the time. Of these two basic rudimentary musical experiences, or so, it is normal that charity must begin at home. In the light of this, his mother, a popular women leader and the lead vocalist of the women cultural group became his pioneer music role model and instructor. Sunny Bobo tells how, as his mother’s pet and hand bag, and like any other last born child, he followed his mother about even to the dancing arena. He was growing with the group where at a point, he metamorphosed into an instrumentalist. Being a child who realized he had a mandate with destiny which must not go unfulfilled, he knew that he was not called to play local music with the women alone but like every other conscious superstar, has a date with world history. He was not unaware of the Herculean task ahead which nothing less than sheer dent of had work, consistence and perseverance would bring to manifestation. Sunny Bobo then left school one day to meet the late totem of highlife music, the Ultimate Dr. Sir Warrior not only to taught him music but “how to play good music.” But Sir Warrior in his usual spirit of accommodation would have loved honouring the request from such a determined young soul but for the difference in their brands of music. He, (Sir Warrior) then asked his manager to take the young man to Soky Ohale. It was then at Soki Ohale’s band that Sunny Bobo first had his real commercial musical experience. It was then that his aspiration started getting its satisfactory rhythm even though he was not receiving any kind of financial remuneration for the errands he ran for the band. As he progressed with the band, one day, providence mandated him to sing lead when the band leader, Soky Ohale could not come in terms with demand of the vocalist. Lot then fell on Sunny Bobo, then Pascal, to sing. He sang leaving mouths agape as he does till date. Today, the highly inflammable singerholic says without mincing words that he was possessed by the infectious singing prowess of his master, Soky but inherited music from his precious mother. In the same light, he holds the Grammy Award winning pop superstar Michael Jackson to a very high esteem because of his vocal power. His first solo shot saw him playing with such big names as the rain maker, Majek Fashek and the sweet lover boy, Felix Liberty. Worthy of note here is the fact that Sunny Bobo’s mama’s “Bomboy” rather than make him a lazy sucking “federal piking”, has brought him fame and fortune. Again, other artistes should draw a lesson from here. Playing in brothels should be for time marking only. They should be focused rather than smoking ganja and fooling about with call girls. Tomorrow is for those who prepare for it today.
The Old School Philosophy
Before now, Sunny Bobo operated a one man entertainment squad. Having garnered experience as a result of regular exercise, he became a man who popular Igbo aphorism holds has made a concubine of the queen who is no longer a small boy. When I asked him the idea behind the old school stuff, he pointed out that it is not that he cannot compose his own songs but to show the people that an old song could be recreated and made anew; but not without adding fresh ingredients. He made it clear that the recreation of evergreen tracks he opted for have in them, infusion of the Owerre Bongo element among other things in which unarguably is to his credit. Apart from the fact that Sunny Bobo has once more regenerated the highlife music consciousness even among youths, he has risen to an enviable height as well as bringing to bear, once more, the names of the original artistes. Needless to say that the old school LP is a popular demand any day any time. It is not surprising to hear that the old school album has sold well over six million copies world over. In a slight digression, or so, I want to ask a question here. Could Sunny Bobo be called a copycat even when his ‘copycatted’ album has sold this much and is still selling? It should occur to us that some the original albums did not hit that mark.
Sunny Bobo recollects vividly that the engineer, Emma Duru Ndubisi at GB Studios, Owerri, who discovered him and had an agreement with him to produce the album as well as his workaholic manager, Qris Ebeatu should not start counting their blessings now because the beautiful ones are not yet born. Today, other artistes, old and young now copy from the bongorized ebe-azia old school style where Sunny Bobo blended hip-pop and highlife to have what he calls HIPLIFE which is his exclusive creation and copyright.
The Anticipated of his style
The idea behind the new school is the artiste’s brainchild to debunk the notion that a man who is taller than his mates must be standing on the shoulders of a giant. Sunny Bobo says he was not born as an artiste to the copy-copy school but did what he had to in the old school volumes to bring to the world his re-creative wizardry. The new school he avers is “where you see the me that makes the me that is in me.” You can imagine an artiste who only replete other people’s songs (and is) selling as much as over six million copies what happens when he sets to sing out his heart. There is no gainsaying the fact that a good artiste is one who is capable of facing any huddle whether in the old school or the new school. A good artiste is versatile.
his new album, conglomerating or rather traversing different facets of music ranging from reggae, hip-pop, hiplife, soul, R&B, bongo, mirenge, etc and others with each track written and arranged by Sunny Bobo with such articulated and synthilating rhythm laced with experienced vocal prowess that rise and fall in consonance with the nature of each song. I call it a basket of surprise. The sound engineers say they do not produce any thing. But for the personalized idiosyncrasies as “ebe-azia”, “Umunna!”, “Sunny-Bobo!!!” etc. one would have found it extremely difficult with the artiste’s identity. After listening to the songs, I looked at the whole thing as a packaged ballistic missile waiting to be ignited.